The Salvation Army has served the residents of Monroe County for 100 years through spiritual and material means. However the places where these services have been offered have been varied since the first Salvationists arrived in Bloomington in 1907.

Frequent Moves

The Salvation Army began its work here humbly and moved frequently. In July 1907, the address for The Salvation Army was 401 E. Main St. At that time Faris Meat Market occupied that location, and the growing members of the Salvation Army met on the second floor of the building. In August of 1907, The Salvation Army moved to the back of the Graham Hotel. Again in October, the Army moved to the second story of the Princess Theater, but they only stayed there for one month. In November 1907, The Salvation Army moved to the second story of Bloomington Paint and Hardware. It was here they stayed for a relatively long period of time: 6 months. By May of 1908, The Salvation Army had moved into the old Methodist Church, which was called the Tom O’Daniel Corner. During the first year in Monroe County, The Salvation Army moved five times, and yet continued to serve and grow.

1936 photo of Salvation Army leaders on the Bloomington square

The year 1909 offered The Salvation Army a stable location. In May of 1909, 500 South Morton became the home of The Salvation Army. Captains Mitchell were in charge of this period of growth until they were replaced in 1910.

In 1912, The Salvation Army moved yet again to 505 W. 11th Street, close to present day Bender Lumber. This was the first time that The Salvation Army moved out of Downtown and into the west side of Bloomington. At this time, the officers made the decision to move based on the migration of working-class families to that side of town.

Plans for a more permanent Citadel were being made at the corner of 3rd and Walnut. However, while the Citadel at that site was being constructed, The Salvation Army moved twice, further west to the locations at 1200 W. 6th St. in 1913 and 1225 W. 6th St. in March 1915.

The Salvation Army moved into the Citadel at 300 S. Walnut with much fanfare. The building was constructed out of Indiana limestone, the first Salvation Army to do so. The Salvation Army had built its first structure in Monroe County and remained in this central location for over twenty years waging war against the devil’s work. Unfortunately, this building no longer stands.

In 1939, the Army built on the present day location at 111 N. Rogers. The officers wanted to get back to a neighborhood feel, and so a building was constructed out of limestone, complete with a chapel, officers quarters, an office and classroom/activity space. This building is still in use by the Salvation Army for much of the same purposes, however, Corps officers no longer live on the premises.

In 1975 the Community Center was dedicated to God’s glory by Divisional Commander Major Robert Thompson. This addition included a gymnasium, offices and a conference room.

The present day Thrift Store was another addition that was made in 1994.

Today the mission of The Salvation Army has changed little. We are a church first and a social service agency second. These are not mutually exclusive goals, indeed they are compatible to the extent that the Lord blesses us with the ability to reach out to those in spiritual and material need

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Early Programs in The Salvation Army of Monroe County

Since its inception in Monroe County, The Salvation Army has functioned as a church whose goal was to reach out to the un-churched. From the earliest days, corps leaders held Sunday school services after lunch in their homes, often personally taking the children home afterwards. Early records also show that vacation bible school occurred regularly, spreading the love and hope that Christ offers to neighborhood children.

The Salvation Army not only sought to meet the spiritual needs of clients but also their material needs. Christmas baskets have been the most constant of these efforts. When The Salvation Army creates these today, we use cardboard boxes and volunteers neatly pack canned goods, cereal, milk and meat into the boxes. However, as early as the 1920s, round wooden baskets were packed with similar items to be given to those in need. Another service offered was a home for transient men. This house offered men the material benefits of a roof, a bed, and provided for their spiritual needs as well. This mirrors the recently closed transitional housing unit, which aimed to provide a temporary place of residence for families in need. To this day, The Salvation Army is a church first and a social service agency second.

The goal has never changed: bring Christ to those in spiritual and material need, doing the most good by those who seek Him.


The Women’s Auxiliary

The Women’s Auxiliary of The Salvation Army began in Monroe County in 1983. A small group of community oriented women came together in order to “create public interest in and support for the dedicated services of The Salvation Army.”

The initial task to this end was to remedy a problem: there were too many donations of goods at the Corps. The Salvation Army had been blessed with the generosity of the community through clothing and other items. But donations were stored in the damp chapel basement and there were so many of them that they were piled up to the ceiling. The Captains at this time, the Millers, arranged Saturday as distribution day. The doors were opened and those who wished to have the items received them at a very low cost or even free. Initially the program went relatively smoothly, however, as word spread the numbers of people seeking affordable items outpaced the staff and capacity of the humble basement. Thus, the newly formed Women’s Auxiliary had a problem to remedy.

So, the women sprang into action and purchased a new facility in which to store donations. The building, no longer in existence, was located on 4th street. Auxiliary members staffed the store, fulfilling a 25 hour volunteer requirement. Donated racks, hangers, tables and other store needs were obtained through the work of the women’s auxiliary. In addition, the women voted unanimously in 1984 to designate the first Saturday of every month as Women’s Auxiliary day and they staffed the store as a group. Aside from this, a committee was started to secure volunteers to regularly staff the Thrift Store. Donations continued to pour in and the women kept the store running.

The Auxiliary’s success is shown by the rapid growth of the store. By the end of 1985, the Women’s Auxiliary had six committees managing different aspects of the store, however, the need for a store manager soon became apparent and by early 1986, one was in place. As the store became more successful, the Women’s Auxiliary witnessed their role in the Salvation Army changing.

With a growing Auxiliary, the women, who at this time in 1986 numbered 35, shifted into fundraising and provisory roles. The main focus was on the Thrift Store and Women’s Auxiliary funds were used to purchase refrigerators, coffee pots and other items. However, by September 1986, the Women’s Auxiliary ceased managing the store in any capacity, although Saturdays were still reserved for members of the auxiliary to volunteer in the store.

A secondary focus was youth programming at the Corps. During this period, apartments existed above the chapel where IU students, who also worked at the Salvation Army, boarded. These men were in charge of gym activities and bookkeeping. The chapel basement, which was the former Thrift Store, was by late 1985 transformed into an after school program called the Drop-In center, or as the youth named it, the “Salv Cellar.” New lighting, wall paneling, a pool table and ping pong were provided by the Women’s Auxiliary. These were the changes that occurred during this period.

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A third programming that remains to this day is the Women’s Auxiliary focus on children. Currently, the Auxiliary provides warm gloves, hats, scarves and socks to every child whose parent seeks assistance at Christmas. Indeed, as early as 1985, the Auxiliary performed this role. As soon as the store moved out of the chapel basement into its 4th street location, the space was used to wrap and distribute Christmas presents. Together with the Corps officers, the Auxiliary purchased presents for needy children and wrapped them for Christmas. The summer is also an opportunity for the Women’s Auxiliary to benefit area children. Donations from the Auxiliary provide camp supplies for children going to Hidden Falls and ensuring that the children of the Day Camp can go swimming at least once a week. These programs exist today as the women still give generously to look after the needy.

The Women’s Auxiliary mixes philanthropy with social outings. During the formative years, tea was held during meetings which occurred in varied locations. Business was later mixed with pleasure as the women would, during the summers, convene at a fellow member’s lake house. Today, members meet in each others houses or at the Corps, and there is always laughter, delicious sweets and lively conversation.

Sources: Minutes of the Women’s Auxiliary, Interviews with former and current soldiers

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